Interior of the Office of Kaplan Johnson Abate & Bird LLP
Michael Leigh

Michael T. Leigh



Areas Of Practice

  • Appellate & Constitutional Law
  • Business Law
  • Complex Commercial & Business Litigation
  • Class Action
  • Arbitration & Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Securities & Wealth Management Litigation & Arbitration
  • Corporate Law
  • Fiduciary Duty & Corporate Governance Litigation
  • First Amendment & Media Law
  • Government Relations & Investigations
  • Healthcare
  • Managed Care Litigation

Michael Leigh's nationwide practice focuses on complex civil litigation, class and derivative action litigation, and wealth and investment management litigation and arbitration. He represents publicly traded and privately held companies in corporate governance, securities, and commercial litigation, and advises companies and individuals in internal corporate and regulatory investigations.

Michael has represented Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies in internal and regulatory investigations involving a wide variety of issues, including embezzlement; fraud; restatement of company financials and SEC filings; foreign corruption and bribery, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA); commercial bribery; and unauthorized access to telecommunications and computer systems. He has represented clients in investigations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Congress, various U.S. Attorney offices and state attorneys general offices, and the U.K. Parliament.

Michael routinely represents broker-dealers and financial advisors in Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitrations and investigations. He also represents registered investment advisers (RIAs) in securities compliance, disclosure requirements, and state and federal audits and investigations.

Michael also represents individuals, boards, and companies in class and derivative actions, fiduciary duty litigation, M&A litigation, trade secrets litigation, consumer class actions, and white-collar criminal defense and investigations. He has represented numerous clients in contract and commercial disputes, in particular disputes involving financial products and highly regulated industries.

Prior to joining the firm, Michael was an associate and partner at the large regional law firm Stites & Harbison PLLC (2015-2018). He also was an associate (2010-2014) at the international law firm Debevoise and Plimpton LLP in New York. Michael served from 2013-2014 as a Special Assistant Federal Defender in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York where he was court-appointed counsel for criminal defendants. He currently serves as a Criminal Justice Act counsel, assigned by the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky to represent indigent persons charged with federal crimes.

In addition to his practice, Michael is an adjunct professor at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law, where he teaches Securities Regulation.


  • Kentucky
  • New York
  • Tennessee
  • Ohio
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 6th Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 8th Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 9th Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 10th Circuit
  • U.S. District Court District of Colorado
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of Indiana
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of Kentucky
  • U.S. District Court Western District of Kentucky
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of Missouri
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of New York
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court Southern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of Ohio
  • U.S. District Court Middle District of Tennessee
  • U.S. District Court Western District of Tennessee


  • New York Law School, New York, New York
    • J.D. - 2010
    • Honors: magna cum laude
  • University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky
    • B.S. - 2007
    • Major: Political Science

Representative Matters

  • Won complete defense jury verdict on behalf of former chief sales officer of HDPE pipe fabricator against former employer alleging claims of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and conversion related to officer’s departure from company. ISCO Industries, Inc. v. O’Neill, No. 20-CI-3079 (Jeff. Cnty. Cir. Ct. March 22, 2024)
  • Won motion to dismiss on behalf of members of assisted-living facility in medical malpractice case on grounds that plaintiff could not pierce the facility’s corporate veil or otherwise sue the facility’s owners for vicarious or alter-ego liability. Mahanes v. LP Louisville East, LLC, No. 22-CI-6224 (Jeff. Cnty. Cir. Ct. Mar. 20, 2024)
  • Won summary judgment in first case to interpret Kentucky’s statute prohibiting contingent-fee engagements for work to influence Kentucky state economic development incentives, finding such engagements to be illegal. Wieland Holdings, Inc. v. Synergy Tax Advisors, LLC, 2023 WL 2731046 (W.D. Ky. Mar. 30, 2023)
  • Won summary judgment on behalf of LLC’s sole member preventing creditors of LLC from piercing the LLC’s corporate veil. United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Lummus Corporation, No. 19-CI-3076 (Jeff. Cnty. Cir. Ct. Mar. 6, 2023)
  • Won motion to dismiss on behalf of life insurance company in case by life settlement company alleging breach of contract, and successfully defended dismissal on appeal. GWG DLP Funding V, LLC v. PHL Variable Insurance Company, 2021 WL 5413877 (D. Minn. Oct. 19, 2021), affirmed, 2022 WL 17420867 (8th Cir. Dec. 6, 2022)
  • Won partial summary judgment in putative nationwide class action alleging cost of insurance rates had improperly been raised, defeating class certification of those claims. Advance Trust Life & Escrow Services, LTA v. Security Life of Denver Insurance Company, 2021 WL 62339 (D. Colo. Jan. 6, 2021)
  • Won dismissal with prejudice of fraud, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and other claims related to vehicle service contracts and reinsurance agreements, and successfully defended the dismissal on appeal. Craig & Landreth Cars, Inc. et al. v. Protective Life Corporation et al., 2021 WL 1431870 (Ky. Ct. App. April 16, 2021)
  • Won summary judgment defeating breach of contract and breach of consumer fraud claims related to variable annuity contract. Patel v. Venerable Ins. & Ann. Co. et al., Case No. 2:20-cv-3226, 2021 WL 3828832 (D.N.J. Aug. 8, 2021)
  • Won summary judgment on liability in breach of contract dispute, and defeated summary judgment motion seeking dismissal of trade secrets, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and conversion claims related to former senior employee’s conduct in disclosing company materials to an outside competitor and other alleged misconduct. PSC Industries, Inc. v. Johnson, 2021 WL 1663574 (M.D. Tenn. Apr. 28, 2021)
  • Won summary judgment as to all class claims in multistate federal court class action litigation concerning fixed-index annuities (FIAs), and successfully defended win on appeal. Abbit v. ING USA Annuity & Life Ins. Co., 774 Fed. Appx. 294 (9th Cir. 2019); Abbit v. ING USA Annuity & Life Ins. Co., 252 F. Supp. 3d 999 (S.D. Cal. 2017); Abbit v. ING USA Annuity & Life Ins. Co., 2016 WL 4542204, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117630 (S.D. Cal., Case No. 3:13-cv-02310, Aug. 20, 2016)
  • Won appellate reversal of trial court order dismissing putative class action alleging breach of contract and fraud related to royalty payments on natural gas extraction from private property. Back v. Chesapeake Appalachia et al., 773 Fed. Appx. 294 (6th Cir. 2019)
  • Won dismissal on merits of $35 million fraud, fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets lawsuit. MHS Capital LLC v. Goggin et al., Case No. 2017-0449-SG, 2018 WL 2149718 (Del. Ch. May 10, 2018)
  • Won dismissal of $35 million fraud and fiduciary duty lawsuit for lack of personal jurisdiction in New York state court. MHS Capital LLC v. Goggin et al., Case No. 652956/2015 (N.Y. Supreme Court, Commercial Division, New York County, May 2, 2017)
  • Counsel to former Hertz CFO in successfully dismissing shareholder securities lawsuit in New Jersey federal district court. Ramirez v. Hertz Global holdings, Inc., 2:13-cv-7050 (D.N.J. Oct. 8, 2014)
  • Counsel to private equity purchaser in securing summary judgment against shareholder class action lawsuit alleging aiding and abetting violations of fiduciary duties in $1.9 billion going-private merger. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority v. Volgenau et al., 2013 Del. Ch. Lexis 197, 2013 WL 4009193 (Del. Ch., C.A. No. 6354-VCN, Aug. 5, 2013), aff’d 91 A. 3d 562 (Del. 2014)
  • Counsel to major financial services company in securing dismissal of shareholder class action lawsuit alleging breach of fiduciary duties in $5.7 billion going-private merger. Edelman v. Protective Life Corporation et al., No. 01-Civ-2014-90247400 (Ala. Cir. Ct. Jeff. Co. Sept. 19, 2014)
  • Represented major payment processing company in parallel Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) and U.S. Attorney Office investigations into embezzlement of company funds by employees, and falsification of company financial and other records. Conducted internal investigation at company, managed subpoena response, and assisted company with restating SEC filings and negotiating settlements with wrongdoers
  • Counseled independent directors of worldwide media company in connection with parallel U.S. Department of Justice and U.K. Ministry of Justice investigations involving Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and other civil and criminal statutes
  • Won summary judgment in defamation lawsuit in federal court. Boda v. Phelan et al., 2014 U.S. Dist. Lexis 104955, 2014 WL 3756300 (E.D.N.Y., No. 11-Civ-28, July 30, 2014)
  • Defeated defamation suit against client in state court. Lema v. Zumba et al., No. 57429/11 (N.Y. Civ. Ct. Sept. 25, 2012)
  • Represented defendants in criminal cases and sentencing involving various federal crimes, including narcotics trafficking, firearms, robbery, kidnapping, embezzlement, and illegal entry, among others
  • Represented plaintiffs in federal environmental litigation raising claims under Clean Water Act (CWA) and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

Honors And Awards

  • Kentucky Super Lawyers – Rising Star (2018-2022), Super Lawyer, Business Litigation, 2023-2024
  • Eagle Scout

Professional Associations And Memberships

  • American Bar Association
  • Kentucky Bar Association
  • Louisville Bar Association
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • Louisville Committee on Foreign Relations

Community Activities

  • Jewish Hospital Medical Ethics Committee, Member (2022-present)
  • Adjunct Professor of Law, University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law
  • Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the River Region, Board of Directors (2015-2019)
  • Lakeside Corporation, Board of Directors (2017-2020), President (2018-2020)